Receiving the silent treatment from someone you care about is painful and frustrating.
Whatever the reason for it, someone needs to break the stalemate. Ignoring somebody is usually a way of dodging a situation, or a punishment of some sort.
But ultimately it resolves nothing and can do real damage to a relationship. If you’re on the receiving end, here’s what to do when your boyfriend ignores you.
What does it mean when my boyfriend ignores me?
In a relationship, there are a couple of very common reasons that a guy might start to ignore you. Both have different motivations behind them.
You might find that your boyfriend ignores you after an argument or when he’s mad at you. In this instance, ignoring you is most likely driven by anger and hurt.
It might also be because he wants to avoid conflict, so he won’t engage with you. Or he could be trying to punish you by ignoring you altogether.
If you haven’t had a fight but you feel like your boyfriend is ignoring you (for example, he’s ignoring your texts and messages) he is most likely trying to avoid a situation he doesn’t want to deal with.
This may be something like he is losing interest in the relationship but doesn’t have the courage to tell you.
What to do when your boyfriend ignores you
1) Call him out
If you get the feeling he is ignoring you, confront him. This certainly doesn’t have to be in an aggressive or argumentative way.
I once text someone I was dating this message: “I can’t help but notice that you’ve been more distant this week”.
By calling out his behavior you bring things out into the open and address the elephant in the room. You also give him the opportunity to explain himself, without making any assumptions about what is going on.
Subtly ignoring someone is passive-aggressive behavior and so it relies on avoidance tactics in order to work. By directly addressing the issue you might be able to nip it in the bud and quickly get to the bottom of things without allowing it to roll on.
Similarly, if you have noticed a pattern of behavior in your boyfriend of him ignoring you in certain situations, bring it up.
For example, he might withdraw or give you the cold shoulder whenever you disagree with him or don’t do what he wants.
There’s a chance he hasn’t realized these patterns in himself. Highlight it to him so he knows it’s something he must change.
2) Ask him how he feels
Often you just need to talk things through.
So rather than waiting around hoping he will come round, ask him straight up how he feels. For example: “Can we chat?” or “Is there anything else bothering you?”
A lot of the time we make assumptions about how our partner is feeling. We interpret what’s going on and draw our own conclusions. But the truth is, the only way you will ever know what’s going on in his head is by asking him.
You may even discover that he’s not ignoring you, something is going on at home or work which is causing him stress.
Asking him how he feels is going to give you the best chance of knowing whether there is a particular problem in your relationship, or if he is backing off because his feelings have changed for you.
3) Explain how you feel
You’ve asked him how he feels, now it’s time for you to be honest with him too.
This can feel vulnerable, but it’s important to be transparent and clear about why you are upset. Be specific. Explain how you feel and then listen carefully to his response.
It’s ok to say “I’m really hurt right now” or “I feel rejected right now”. Showing you feel neglected is important. It shows you’re willing to take responsibility for your emotions and that you want to understand where he is coming from.
If he cares about you he will acknowledge how ignoring you impacts you. He may not realize he has been ignoring you. So try to be patient and avoid being accusatory.
For example, if he takes a long time to text you back you might tell him you start to feel paranoid when you don’t hear from him and worry something is wrong.
Or if he spends a lot of time on his phone when you meet in person and barely acknowledges you, you could tell him it makes you feel a bit neglected and sad.
4) Back off
To resolve any issues in a relationship communication is always key. You should never ignore problems. But the reality is that often relationship conflict also requires some space.
A little bit of time and distance can work wonders in several situations when your boyfriend is ignoring you.
- If he needs some space to think
- If he needs time to cool down after an argument
- If he is being unclear and sending mixed signals about whether he wants to be with you
The best thing to do in certain situations is to do nothing for a while.
In the meantime, you can focus on yourself and your interests.
That way, whatever happens, you will be feeling at your best to deal with it. Give it a few days and see what develops. Things often resolve themselves with time, or your next steps are clearer.
5) Don’t bombard him with communication
We’ve been mainly talking about what to do when your boyfriend ignores you. But it’s also important to look at what not to do.
Don’t bombard your boyfriend with texts, messages, emails, and calls. This will only make things worse.
When you send many messages, it will just reinforce the idea that you expect a reply. And if he doesn’t respond, you’ll end up feeling even more angry and resentful.
Instead, wait until you are both calm and ready to talk before reaching out again.
Rather than multiple messages, sending one question can be a good idea because it is obvious you expect a reply.
If you’re in the dark about what’s going on, send a message like: “Is something wrong?”. On the other hand, if you’ve had a fight, you could say something like: “I’m sorry we got into an argument. What can we do to move forward?”.
If he doesn’t answer, leave it alone. Don’t keep asking questions or trying to engage him in conversation.
6) Put a time limit on things
Eventually, enough is enough.
You’re not going to let your boyfriend ignore you forever. How long you will tolerate it is up to you. What to do when your boyfriend ignores you for days is probably going to be very different from what you do when he has been ignoring you for weeks.
If his behavior continues, you may want to reevaluate your relationship. If he wants to break up, give him that out. I know it might sound risky, but it will make him consider whether he is prepared to lose you by continuing to sulk or ignore you.
If you decide to stay together, then you need to set boundaries.
This means agreeing on rules about how you will communicate in the future, how much time he can take away from you without telling you why, and most importantly, how you deal with conflict or problems without resorting to ignoring one another.
This will help you both avoid future arguments and misunderstandings. It will also help you maintain your own sanity.
What to do when your boyfriend ignores your texts
7) Give him enough time to respond
We’re constantly connected these days.
According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, text messaging users in the US send or receive an average of 41.5 messages per day.
Much of our lives take place online, but at the same time, we still have real lives to live too. School, work, hobbies, friends, family, and a whole host of commitments need to be squeezed into 24 hours.
The point is that even though we seem to be constantly available, this is an unfair expectation. We all have other responsibilities. We don’t always have time to check every single message.
So, the first step is to put some limits on how often you expect to hear from your boyfriend. It’s worth considering if you’re being overly sensitive or demanding.
You might be thinking ‘why is my boyfriend ignoring me on text’, when actually he’s not. If he takes a few hours to respond, he’s most likely not ignoring you — he’s just busy.
If he takes longer than 24 hours to respond, it’s possible that he’s having trouble communicating with you and something could be up.
How quickly you expect a reply will probably depend on your texting habits in the past with one another. But it’s best not to jump to conclusions.
8) Understand the difference between real life and text conversation
If you know for sure he is angry or moody over something, then he definitely could be giving you the silent treatment.
But it’s important to realize that chatting over text is different than talking in real life. Different rules apply.
In the absence of visual cues that give context to what we say, we’re more prone to read into things. Texting can quickly create misunderstandings.
During back and forth conversations over text, you don’t always know when the conversation is finished or whether you even need to reply.
If he hasn’t replied to one of your messages it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s no longer into you. Sometimes we run out of things to say or aren’t in the mood to chat over text.
If his silence persists and you can’t think of any reason for it, then it could be because he’s tired of talking to you. The reality is that we do get bored of texting someone every now and then.
9) Suggest meeting up
A way to bypass the confusion that texting can create is to suggest meeting face to face. It’s clearer to talk to someone in person rather than via text.
You’ll feel more comfortable knowing that you are physically present and can see each other’s facial expressions and body language, and hear their tone of voice. This is going to tell you straight away whether something is up.
Suggesting getting together is also going to make it clear if he has been ignoring you or not. His response (or lack of it) will probably tell you everything you need to know.
If he makes an excuse for why he can’t meet but doesn’t suggest an alternative, then it seems to confirm your suspicions. If he doesn’t reply at all, then you know for sure he is ignoring you.
10) Don’t send any more messages
When you’re waiting for a text from your boyfriend, minutes can feel like hours. But it’s important not to overreact and send him a flurry of messages.
Pestering him takes away your dignity and will make you look desperate. If he hasn’t had time to respond, it makes you appear quite needy.
If he is ignoring you, filling his inbox only serves to annoy him and make him ignore you further.
Instead, you should wait until he responds before sending anything else.
If he does eventually respond, then you can decide whether you need to have a conversation about his slow reply and what it means.
What to do when your boyfriend ignores you after an argument
11) Say sorry if you’ve done something wrong
Ignoring you after an argument can be a way of your boyfriend icing you out to punish you.
If he is feeling angry and frustrated ignoring you is his way of non-verbally showing you that your actions or words were unacceptable to him.
That doesn’t make it ok. It’s still not the healthiest way of dealing with conflict. But if you believe you have done something wrong then it’s time to apologize and show him you feel sorry.
Even if saying sorry isn’t enough to magically fix everything, it can go a long way in making amends.
Taking responsibility for your part in the argument shows respect for yourself and your boyfriend.
12) Give him time to cool off
As well as being angry, some guys may ignore you after an argument if they are feeling overwhelmed.
Your boyfriend might not know how to express himself in a healthy way, and use retreat as a way of coping. If you’ve been arguing he may also be ignoring you as a way of trying to avoid any further conflict.
Whilst totally ignoring someone is just petty, it is reasonable to expect some time and space to get yourself together after a fight with your girlfriend or boyfriend.
Giving him some time to cool off with help you to avoid the conflict escalating in the heat of the moment. You’re more likely to say things you don’t mean when you’re feeling emotional.
Give him a reasonable amount of time before reaching out if your boyfriend has been ignoring you after an argument.
13) Don’t grovel
As they say, it takes two to tango. Relationship conflict is very rarely exclusively one person’s fault.
You both have to take responsibility for creating the relationship you have.
Even if you know you are in the wrong and have done something to really upset your boyfriend, you still deserve the right to dignity and self-respect. Even if you are at fault.
Continuing to say sorry over and over probably won’t have the effect you were hoping for. Rather than prove to him you feel regret, you may be feeding into the cycle.
He ignores you, he gets your attention, he ignores you more, he gets even more of your attention.
If you keep begging for forgiveness you give him all the power and control.
14) Be clear you are ready to talk
You want to resolve the conflict, so you can’t just give him endless amounts of space. At some point, something needs to happen for you to move forward.
After all, if you’re not able to fix things the only other solution is to break up.
He might not be ready to talk things through right now. And you’re not going to keep sending him message after message for him to ignore or continue groveling about how sorry you are.
So the solution is to make it clear to him that when he’s ready to talk, you are here. That way you leave the door open for making up, but you put the ball in his court.
You have told him you want to speak about it, and it is up to him to reach out if and when he is willing to.
15) Work through your issues
Relationships are never going to be plain sailing all the time. The perfect partnership isn’t one that’s conflict-free, it’s one that talks about solutions.
After an argument, you both need to find some common ground. If you have tried talking to him before and nothing has worked, maybe it’s time to try a different approach.
Your aim in moving forward is to try to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Once you have made up, you need to address any bigger problems that got you here in the first place.
Otherwise, your next argument will be just as hard to deal with and you could end up in the exact same situation. Eventually, this can cause the demise of your entire relationship.
It’s best to work on your own issues first, so you can better understand what caused them. This means taking steps towards changing the behavior that led to the conflict in the first place.
How to get his attention when he ignores you
I know it’s incredibly tempting if your boyfriend is ignoring you to meet fire with fire. It’s natural to wonder ‘How can I make my boyfriend regret ignoring me?’
But here’s the brutal truth you need to hear — it’s not going to help in the long run. In fact, it’s only going to make things worse.
Rather than teach him a lesson, you are more likely to escalate the situation. If you want to save your relationship, this is the last thing you need.
At the end of the day, you can’t make someone pay attention to you. When you try it’s more likely to come across as undignified, desperate, and needy. There is a huge difference between getting positive attention and negative attention.
For example, sending mean texts might get you attention from your boyfriend who is ignoring you, but it’s the wrong kind of attention.
What’s also true is that the more you chase someone the further they run.
This is why your best strategy with a boyfriend who is ignoring you is one of self-respect and dignity.
It is better to follow the mature steps of healthy communication discussed in this article, rather than get dragged into retaliation or revenge.
One of the best ways to get his attention when he ignores you is to get on with your own life in the meantime.
Bottom line: If your boyfriend ignores you
But at the end of the day, ignoring someone — giving them the cold shoulder, ghosting, stonewalling, shunning — is a destructive pattern of behavior in a relationship.
It’s usually a way of gaining power over someone or creating some emotional distance between you. Neither of these things is very good for a healthy relationship.
You may have been told that ‘true love is when he ignores you’, but this simply isn’t true.
True love is when two people support each other through thick and thin. True love is when you face your problems together head-on. True love is still showing compassion, respect, and understanding towards your partner, even when you are dealing with relationship difficulties.
Ignoring someone is never compatible with true love.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.
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